Lost and Found Sisters Read online

  Excuses, all of it. If I’d been stronger, or had the means to support you, things would have been different but that’s no comfort now, I get that. I should have told you who I was when I first started talking to you. I get that too. It was hard not to, believe me. But there was so much more at stake than my own selfish happiness. I’d hoped for many more chats between us, but if you’re reading this now, it means that’s not meant to be. I’m sorry about that. But the timing needed to be right before I told you that you have a sister. I wanted to tell you that she’s smart and kind like you, that she has a sassy mouth on her, but a heart as big as the moon. You don’t know Tilly yet, but I hope you’ll come to love her as I have loved both of you, and show her how to become beautiful in mind and spirit, just like her big sister.

  I understand I have no right to ask this of you, but I’m asking anyway. Please. Please, Quinn, can you find it in your heart to be there for Tilly? She’ll be angry and afraid, and she’ll need you. I need you.

  Love you, Quinn. Always have and always will.

  Quinn set the letter in her lap and let her head fall back again, feeling the tears on her cheeks. She hadn’t expected Carolyn’s emotions to affect hers. Maybe it was her clear joy and pride over who Quinn had grown up to become, maybe it was the simple but powerful sense of sorrow and loss in the words, or the suspicious smudge spots on the paper that might’ve come from tears, she didn’t know.

  What she did know was that Carolyn had had a plan. Cancer had ruined that plan and taken her too soon.

  Beth had had a plan too. A full life plan that involved mountain climbing and a guy to love her and babies . . . and most certainly not dying before she could fulfill all that. If she’d left Quinn a letter making a request of her, any request at all, Quinn would’ve done whatever she asked, or died trying.

  So why was she hesitating to do this?

  “You okay?”

  She opened her eyes and found Mick standing there on the porch. “Yes.”

  Mick studied her and then set two cups down on the railing and crouched in front of her, putting a hand on her thigh. The touch grounded her as nothing else had. Slowly he reached up with his other hand, cupping her face, using the pad of his thumb to wipe away a tear she’d missed.

  He’d gone back to the B & B with her last night. Or this morning, rather. He’d tucked her into bed, pulled her against his chest and had said, “Get some sleep,” and she had.

  He’d been gone when she’d woken up.

  He handed her one of the cups and she took a sip, smiling at the first taste of the hot, strong coffee. “Not decaf,” she said. “I could love you for that alone.” Leaning in, she kissed him softly. “That’s for coming by to check on me.” She kissed him again. Not as softly. “And that’s for the caffeine.”

  “Remind me to bring you coffee every morning.” He rose and pulled her to her feet. “You’re going in?”

  She looked at the house. “I’m going in.” She took a deep breath. “I want to make sure there’re no unhappy surprises in there for Tilly when she shows up.”

  “Want company?”

  She’d expected to have to do this alone so she was pathetically grateful for his offer, because not alone would be so much better. “I already dragged you here from the Bay Area. Don’t you have to work?”

  “It can wait.”

  The house was small. Small kitchen, small living room, small bathrooms, all outdated but clean and neat. Better yet, there were no visible bugs and no dripping sinks, which meant it was a big step up from the B & B.

  It was obvious which room was Tilly’s and which had been Carolyn’s. Tilly’s room looked like a cyclone had gone through it. The floor was completely hidden beneath discarded clothing and God knew what else. The bed was unmade, the dresser drawers opened with clothes half in and half out.

  In contrast, Carolyn’s was neat as a pin and Quinn looked around with mixed feelings at the light oak furniture and white bedding and curtains. It suited the simple, smiling woman she’d last seen a month ago now, and brought back a few fond memories of laughing with her at the coffee shop.

  The third room was smaller than Quinn’s condo’s walk-in closet and filled with sewing and boxes of craft stuff.

  No bed.

  Quinn figured she could clear out the room a little and sleep in here, maybe move some of the stuff to the attic, but she stopped herself midthought.

  Moving in was temporary.

  Very temporary.

  She’d sleep on the couch for now. And if Tilly decided she wanted to have Quinn take on guardianship, they’d go to L.A. as soon as she could get Tilly to make that move.

  Back in the kitchen, Quinn took in the table and mismatched chairs, the hanging pots and pans, the fridge dotted with magnets, the open cabinets filled with a variety of pottery dishes and jars for drinking glasses . . . and found herself aching. The sun beamed in through the window, casting the room in a golden glow, and she could easily picture Carolyn standing right here where Quinn stood, making dinner for herself and Tilly.

  For two years now Quinn had been an utter pro at blocking out everything, but she was starting to feel like a dam that was slowly bursting apart at the seams, unable to control anything, much less her own destiny.

  Mick met her gaze, his own softening. “You okay?”

  “Am I doing enough?”

  “You’ve already done so much.”

  She shook her head.

  “You have,” he said. “You came back. You went after Tilly when she needed you. Hell, you’ve put your life on hold to give her the time she needs to make a decision. Which, by the way, is a brave act all in itself.”

  She turned to him then and searched his gaze. “But will it reach her?”

  He shook his head. “I don’t know. You’re the one of us who was an actual teenage girl. I watched my sister go through it, and I certainly dated enough of them, but it seems to me most teenagers are actually insane. Like committable insane.”

  She found a laugh. “Are you saying that all of the girls in your past were crazy?”

  He grimaced. “I should probably plead the fifth on that one.”

  But she was curious now. “What about the women?”

  “What about them?”

  “Well, for starters . . . have there been a lot?”

  He rubbed a hand over his jaw and the ensuing sound of the stubble against his palm caused her to want to drop this conversation and maybe press up against him until he growled low in his throat like he sometimes did when she touched him.

  “Define a lot,” he finally said.

  She rolled her eyes and turned away, but he caught her with a low laugh. “A lot might be an exaggeration. I’ve had several long-term relationships, if that answers your question, none of which worked out.”

  “Why not?”

  He rubbed his jaw again, still studying her. “Either the timing was wrong for one of us, or one of us was the aforementioned crazy and . . .”

  She cocked her head. “And what?”

  “And she cheated on me.”

  She stared up at him. “Lena?” she guessed.

  “It was a long time ago.”

  “If it helps, she seems pretty sorry,” she said as diplomatically as she could.

  He let out a low laugh and grabbed her hand, tugging her into him. “Are you campaigning for her now?”

  “Hell no.”

  His eyes heated and he stepped into her, backing her into the kitchen counter, putting a hand on the tile on either side of her hips. “What are you campaigning for?”

  She stopped breathing. “Are you asking me what I want?”


  They looked at each other and then Mick’s hands went from the tile to her hips, his fingers spread wide, his thumbs brushing beneath the hem of her shirt to graze along her bare skin.

  “I want peace on earth and to end world hunger,” she said, biting back a moan as his mouth settled at the crook of her neck. “I want my